Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sweet Dumpling

I am continuing to draw and I'm getting braver with my watercolors. At the grocery store I find myself choosing fruits and vegetables as much for their appeal as art subjects as for taste! I couldn't resist some autumn pumpkins and gourds this week.

Happy Fall!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Photoshop's Cutout Filter

Renate asked how I use Photoshop to help me define areas of color (which I mentioned when I described how I made my "Midsomer Tomato" quilt above, so I thought I'd demonstrate here. 

First, you start with a photo.  Here's one of some hydrangea florets that I took a few summers ago.

I open it in Photoshop, and go to the "filters" menu, then under the "Artistic" filter options, choose "cut out."  It selects color areas for you. One click, and voila:

When you choose the "cut out" filter,  a menu will pop up that will allow you to slide bars to select edge fidelity, color complexity, and the like.  You can slide them back and forth to see what they do, but they provide various ways of adding or subtracting detail.  If you bear in mind that you're going to try to use the color areas you see as pieces of fabric, you'll remember that keeping it simple while including just the detail you need is the goal.  Here's a simpler version of the same image:

Remember, you can add back detail with thread wok.  So maybe all you want is a fabric base on which to thread paint more color and detail?  Or maybe you want the fabric to do the work, so you'll want more detail?  It's up to you. 

Once I get to this point, I print out the image at what I want the finished size to be.  (I often have to do this by taping 8 x 11 sheets together because that's all my printer will do.)  Then, with a black relatively heavy-line black sharpy, I trace the color areas.

Here's a shot of the tomato one:

You can see that I take each color (in the tomato case, I had reds, blues, and greens) and I assign Dark, Light and Medium value labels. 

Then I trace the whole thing onto tracing paper, and then I trace pattern shapes and assemble from there using the marked image as my guide.  It's sort of tedious but it's really fun to see the picture taking shape.  I don't follow this slavishly -- it's meant to be a fabric painting, after all, not a paint-by-number project. So use your artistic judgment and have fun.

I should add that I never use Photoshop Elements so I don't know if Elements as a "cutout" filter.  Sometimes there is a filter called Posterize that can do similar things. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Twelve by Twelve on the radio!

Yesterday, Gerrie Congdon (one  of the Twelve by Twelve "twelves") was interviewed by Pat  Sloan on her online radio show at American Patchwork and Quilting Radio.  I wasn't around to listen to the show live, but it's available on the APQ website to listen any time you want!

Here's the link:

And Gerrie talks about Twelve by Twelve on the Oct. 17 show (which shows up as the episode with LeeAnn Decker.)  It's a great overview of the project and it's a nice way to get to know another of the twelves!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Midsomer Tomatoes

When I was at the Festival of Quilts in the UK this past summer, I met Chris and De, the delightful owners of Midsomer Quilting in Bath.  They have been early and enthusiastic supporters of the Twelve by Twelve challenge, and were the first to ask if they could exhibit the full set of quilts.  And when I met them, Christ told me about how visitors to the exhibit were so excited at the thought of making small quilts on a theme that he announced a shop challenge on the theme of fruit.  He asked if I'd submit something, and I gladly agreed.  Here's the piece I just sent off.

I remember my puzzlement at learning, when I was a kid, that tomatoes are considered fruit because (according to the Oxford Dictionary) true fruits are developed from the ovary in the base of the flower, and contain the seeds of the plant.  We eat cherry tomatoes all summer long around here -- so that led me to picture them for this challenge.  And it's doubly fruity!  Cherry! Tomatoes!  Brilliant, yes?!

I started with a photo of a carton of cherry tomatoes, then used Photoshop to identify color areas.  From there, I used batiks to "paint" the tomatoes and machine quilting to add more color and dimension and texture. (It's 12x12 inches square.)  I realized I really like working this way -- gosh, I should do it more!

Chris and De at Midsomer Quilting have been amazing supporters for Twelve by Twelve, and I'm happy to contribute something to their challenge.  I only wish I could be there to see all of the entries when they are exhibited.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hand me that pen...

I'm one of those people who grew up thinking she couldn't draw.  I think it was partly because my sister Laura was a dedicated and talented artist who drew beautifully and I thought I just didn't have her talent.  But over the years I've come to realize that drawing is one of those things that can be learned.  I took some watercolor painting classes years ago and loved them but work and family pulled me in a different direction, and I've not done much actual drawing since.  But recently, I've been working on drawing -- well, a loose sketching, really.  And I'm having SO much fun.

I started participating in the drawing lessons Miss C is doing as part of her curriculum this semester, and we're watching lessons online by an art teacher in New York City.  It's pencil drawing so it's learning about how to shade and shape using value and line. It's a whole different thing than I've ever done, and I'm finding it quite interesting. 

And then, on a whim, I signed up for a short online sketching and watercolor class from Jane LaFazio, whose colorful and breezy sketch style I adore.  During the first week, we drew "every day objects" -- hence the rotary cutter, below...


  and this week, we're drawing things from nature -- today, for example, I worked with leaves and seed pods from a maple tree on my street.

I'm sort of surprised at my reaction to this.  I love the peacefulness and meditative sense while really studying something to draw it.  It's an intense concentration but restful at the same time.  But mostly I'm feeling that this is doing wonders for my confidence.  I'm not aiming for anything fancy, mind you, but I feel good at what I'm doing and I'm learning each time I try something new. So each time I finish an assignment, I think to myself with some surprise, "Hey!  I  can draw!"

Yep, I'm still sewing and working on the various projects I have going around here -- but now I can stop for 15-30 minutes and do a small drawing and I feel as refreshed as if I'd taken a nap.  It's amazing. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Do you Travel in a Straight Line?

I have posted some big thoughts on the zig-zag nature of my creative process over on the Tea and Talk for Two blog (where Helen Conway and I have an ongoing conversation about art and creativity going).  Do pop over and comment on what YOU think about your creative process!

Monday, October 10, 2011


Here's a project I started working on at retreat last week.  I'd been wanting to do some improvisational piecing, and had in mind a video I'd watched on Design Matters TV where Edwina Mackinnon demonstrated her "cut and come again" technique for making a whole bunch of small pieced blocks.  A while back, I stumbled onto a bin of Hoffman solid cottons on sale, so I selected some colors for this purpose.  I don't think I've sewn with solid colors since the 1980s when I was making Amish quilts.  But what can I say -- they called to me.  A retreat day to piece while chatting with friends seemed the perfect setting for this project.

So away I went.  And I must say, I really enjoyed doing these.  It was very fun, developing each little composition in a 4.5 inch block.  No surprise -- the blocks I liked the best were usually the simplest ones.  Some of them would be great larger quilts -- maybe you'll see that in the future!

In any event, by the end of the day I'd sewn over 100 blocks and I figured that was enough.  I've been arranging and rearranging them on my design wall-- such fun possibilities -- but I liked the look of aligning the striped lines and I keep thinking about the San Andreas fault as I work on this so it will probably end up with some sort of earthquakey title!

The blocks are now sewn together, I know what I want the borders to look like, and I'll incorporate some hand-stitching in this, too.  

Considering that this is all improvising -- moving forward without a plan or mental vision of where I want it to go, this process has felt good. 

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friends to left of me, friends to the right

I have spent the last 3 1/2 days away at my twice-yearly quilt retreat. What you see above was the view from my sewing table, and I loved looking up and out on a busy, happy, creative swarm of activity. But most of all I am once again struck by the inspiration and energy and joy I get from spending time with these women.

Here is Eleanor, who sits on my right. Usually, she comes to retreat prepared with tiny piles of cut pieces, which she then lays out in tidy piles for sewing. This year, she was sewing Freddy Moran style houses from her scraps, and what started as an organized bin of strips became an exploding pile of fabric. For those of us who always end up with a fabric mess, it was very satisfying to see.

Here is Pat, who sits to my left. Pat is usually working on a bunch of different projects at retreats, changing from one to another as the mood hits her. This time, she worked steadily on one major quilt, dong a lot of finishing details and hand work. As she has been working on her project for several years intermittently, it was exciting for all of us tom see it in the home stretch.

Retreats always end up generating lots of input and creative cooperation. I snapped this picture when I saw Eleanor, Ancella and Vicky huddling together to check the block arrangements on Ancella's batik quilt. I also figure I should record Ancella working with a brown and gray palette, as that is a rare event. She usually works in a "Put on your sunglasses" bright palette and we still tease her about the time she tried to make a pastel quilt that ended up with a lot of gorgeously vivid fuchsia pinks.

I could show lots more pictures of beautiful women working on delightful projects. But what I can never quite capture on film is the feeling of warmth and contentment and energy in the room, and that's what keeps me coming back time after time. It reminds me that quilting has always had a communal aspect, and the ritual of coming together to sew, even if we are not all gathered around the same quilting frame, is a powerful one.

I feel so lucky, and I know that the feeling of being with these ladies will carry me a long way.